Top tips from Milford Youth Matters

“Hi I’m Dayle Gibby, I’m the Project Coordinator for Milford Youth Matters which is a charity based in Milford Haven. Currently we have a Routes to Opportunity project which is a partnership between ourselves and Pembrokeshire County Council, and what we provide here is an eight-week vocational learning project for young people that are not currently in education, training or employment.

But it’s not just that, we offer so much more, and that has come from young people. Our project has evolved from what young people have said what they want, what support they need, and how we can support them into achieving their goals.

So one thing that has come from us is our links to businesses, young people, and connecting young people to the labour market, and businesses have responded to us to say that this is what they’re looking for. So we’re able to support them into employment or further training. Currently we work with about 60 different businesses and organisations, from that they provide us with advice and guidance, but also through our social enterprises they stock and sell our products. So we have a good supply chain of things like planters that go into our local garden centre, but they also help us deliver our project, so at the moment we have people on placement in the leisure centre, in cafés around the county. So whilst we facilitate that learning we also get that expertise and knowledge to help us deliver the Roots to Opportunities project which provides so much experience for young people.

One thing that we have learned and didn’t really consider in our first project was the need for young people living independently and tenancy management support. We’ve worked with around 350 young people on our project and around 45% of those have said that they need support with living independently and tenancy management. Going forward in our new project what we’ve got has evolved to support that and build capacity for our staff to be able to provide young people that support as well as provide vocational learning, connecting young people to the community, and get individuals to offer advice and guidance.

But that’s not just going to be open to young people not in education, training or employment, that’s going to be open to everybody. Young people went out and consulted with their peers about what support they needed, and whether people shared similar needs, and we found that young people want that support even if they are in employment. So young people have taken the lead in speaking to their peers and saying “this is the support that I had, do you think you’d need the same?” and that’s how we found our application. From that we spoke to housing associations and local landlords about how we can fit into that piece to prevent those tenancy breakdowns.

What we found was that whilst young people are engaging in our Roots to Opportunity project, they needed a level of support before they were ready for that, and they need that tenancy support in a short window of time before we could get them into employment.

Some really good connections have been made from our project. We now get employers phoning us up asking whether we have young people interested in work and we can offer that. With Universal Credit rolling out we’re going to be working with the Job Centre, co-delivering projects here to ensure that they are engaged and getting that support that they need on an individual and group level.

What we offer is that very experiential learning and what we offer is bespoke learning to each young person that comes in. It’s very young person-focused and very young person-led. They tell us what they want, they will set their goals and targets, and we work with them to achieve that.

We’ve got qualifications for young people, we’ve got a vast amount of qualifications that we offer; from food hygiene to first aid. We’ve got woodwork, gardening, our bikes, our café, and we can offer work-related qualifications on those routes.

Our café has really grown over the last couple of years. Young people offer a weekly lunch club to pensioners. One of the local lunch clubs closed down so young people responded by saying “we’ve got a café, we can offer this, so let’s give it a go.” So now that’s a regular thing in people’s diaries, we get about 20 pensioners that come here for a two-course meal and unlimited tea and coffee for £3.50, and we’re looking at providing young people that experience of customer service.

On Wednesday’s our café’s developed a supporting adults with disabilities group so they provide lunch through that. We also get things like donated bread from Tesco and from that we do a “Tea and Toast” Friday so anyone from the community can come in for tea and toast for 50p, and we’re really targeting young people, parents, families who may want some other support. It’s really helped our project develop from what we initially said for our Roots to Opportunity project to deliver vocational learning, but it’s grown massively and like I said, we work with 60 – 70 different organisations which is massive, and they all provide support in different ways.

Local businesses take people on for work placements, and that’s out of their own time, and that has led to employment which is also focusing on that young person. We’re also working with young parents and what they’re saying is that they want to get back into training and learning. Sometimes they say that they’re not ready for work but what they’d like to do is find a career and get that training. Some of these people are young people who have been out of education for eight or nine years so what we can offer them is a comprehensive package so they’ll come out with a CV, come out with good references, and some hands-on learning experience.

We’ve got global citizenships being developed by our local rotary club. We make crates that get filled with reclaimed tools, and they get sent to developing nations in Africa. So the rotary club have provided us with the advice, guidance and materials, and what we didn’t know is that they gave us a donation for that support, with that money we can reinvest in our social enterprises – provide those first aid qualifications, provide that learning, because that’s what young people are telling us they want.

Our existing project has shaped our new project because we’ve got the foundation, and we know that we’ve tested and adjusted, and our systems are working. Young people are responding well to it, the community responds well to it, and young people have helped us shape and evolve that project and that goes onto our new project. Young people have been at the forefront of everything that we do. Young people come in each day and they provide us with that feedback and from that we’ve been able to develop into what we’ve got going on now, what we’re calling our Routes to Opportunities + project.

Young people, by having a successful model, a successful evaluation process, and that successful feedback from young people who are saying, “this is what I need at this time so we ask, “do you hear similar views from other young people?” and going forward we’re going to develop some really strong peer support models so young people who have been through that process are coming back to offer that support to others because young people share similar experiences, and learn from each other to provide that learning experience.”

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